After I wrote this I realise my thoughts have formed a sort of long novel here. Please bear with me as I brainstorm this idea. And join my process if you wish.
Recently I have been thinking a lot about Unschooling. Unschooling is similar to homeschooling, but it is different in the sense that the children are given the freedom to lead their own learning and education. There are no set schedules, exams and testing, curriculum, or set subjects to be studied. The role of the parent is merely one of a facilitator, to make the resources available to them and to answer questions. When I first heard of this, it seemed too far fetched to me. What about University? What if the child doesn't know what he needs to learn? Is it just about having fun and nothing else? How does it work with multiple children - how does the parent cope with teaching their own children (I question this with homeschooling too), how is the support for unschooling in Malaysia?. I had too many unanswered questions and put off the idea for a while. Lately I came across this website, and after spending time reading about it...I am starting to question my whole belief system in regards to child education.
Unschooling is based on the concept of TRUST in our children. Trust that they want to learn, trust that they know what they need to learn, and trust that they know the best way to learn. We love and trust our children, but why is this concept feels so alien? It is so ingrained in our bones that if children are left to their own devices, they will naturally NOT want to learn anything. If nobody told them to when and what they must learn, they won't. And we prove this point by looking at other school children, or at our own experiences as school children - at weekends or whenever children had free time, all they want to do is sleep or rest or laze around and play. Perhaps the very fact that we have been forced to learn what other people think we must learn is what hinders our learning in the first place. Perhaps we were so tired from learning 'hard' things we don't really see the use for, that caused us to feel like relaxing and rewinding whenever we get the chance. Think about this carefully and observe our own little children, the ones who hasn't been to school yet. Are they lazy? Do they learn nothing at all if we didn't try to teach them something? The answer is quite the opposite. Little children has the passion for learning with more force that we adults can keep up with. Let's look at Adam, for example. We are pretty easy-going about Adam's 'education'. I have never told him to learn the alphabet, or numbers in either a gentle or firm way. I haven't suggested that he memorise the alphabet song and I have long since given up on flash cards, even, because he showed no interest in it. But I love reading for myself and we do have plenty of books around the house, most of which are about things that he likes - animals, trains, other vehicles, dinosaurs, maps. And we only ever read these books when he asked to be read to. Now despite (or probably because of) this relaxed attitude, our nightly story time is one of his favourite time of the day. We let him choose his books and he would try and choose as many books as possible. A while back he has taught himself how to use the computer so that he can play games on the Cbeebies website. and from there, he has taught himself Phonics because he wanted to play the Alphablocks game. I myself only have the vaguest idea how phonics work. But i sat by his side when he asked me to, to help him win the Alphablocks game. Before I know it, there was another game on Ipad that he wanted to play, and while watching him play that game (another phonics game) I realised that he already know most of the sounds of every letter! Mia is already able to pronounce some of the phonics sounds just by listening to Adam. Honestly, their ability and passion for learning goes beyond our wildest estimation. Now, does this apply to older children? As they get older will they have the same hunger for learning to be able to learn what they need to learn? Perhaps, if they are given the freedom to learn whatever catch their interest (instead of learning what other people deemed necessary), they will have a lifelong interest in learning.
Now I thought deeply about how this apply to myself and my husband as the 'product' of schooling. We spent many many years at school and university, but how much of that 'education' did we retain? I was a straight A student, a first class student and yet....can I pass any of the tests I took if I take it now? More importantly, are we using the subjects we learnt at school in our real daily lives, or in our jobs even? We always say ' Our degree certificate is merely our ticket for a job'. What is implied is that we hardly even use what we learnt and took exams for, even if we work in the specific area that we studied for. Now for me, I have had a job as a Chemical Engineer and now I am a housewife. I am not using any chemical engineering at all in my life. And yet I have taught myself many things that had nothing to do with what others have told me to learn. I learnt sewing, knitting and parenting with a passion and joy that I have not known any other time in my life. I seek these knowledge myself and I found them infinitely rewarding. My husband is the same with photography and football. We never had any classes in these subjects and don't even think of them as subjects. We just want to learn them! Now, think of all those years we spent in school - imagine if instead of wasting our time learning what other people think we needed to learn, we use that time learning whatever we wanted to learn? We could've been whatever we wanted to be! Now I am thinking of how amazing it would be if my own children had that opportunity and the time, to be what ever they wanted to be.
Am I qualified to educate my own children? Perhaps the question should be, who is more qualified than I am to teach my own children? It is not the fault of the school, or the teachers, really. How can a teacher, with a classfull of 30 students, possibly be able to cater to the very individual interests of her 30 students? The best she can do is teach the subject matter that is handed to her, to the best of her ability. But for an unschooling parent, she does not have 30 students, only her own few children, whom she know by heart their interests and personalities.
My biggest concern was University. My husband share this concern too. I read and read and then it came to me. Yes, there are ways for unschooled children to enter University if they wanted to. They can take entrance exams and there are ways to prepare them for it. But the whole idea is that - IF THEY WANT TO. They don't HAVE to enter University. Too radical? Yes, it seemed like that to me to at first. We are the product of years of schooling. The Path has been laid out to us and we believe and follow it - Do well in school to get to University, do well in Uni and get a good job. But now, I am starting to rethink this whole idea. Does it matter if we become engineers, or doctors, or scientists? What if a child wanted to be a farmer? Not because his father was a farmer, but because he finds it so fascinating? An unschooled child could've explored this idea early on in life, and possibly become a successful farmer before he even becomes an adult. I have friends who studied engineering and other 'serious' subjects but ended being successful farmers, business women, photographers, famous crafters. They did this admirably by leaving behind their years of study and pursuing their dreams. Now imagine if the same people had not wasted their lives learning things that they never use but instead pursue their dreams from early childhood?
Now these are just my thoughts right now. As you can see this is mainly a rojak of my questions and opinions about unschooling. I do not know whether I will eventually choose unschooling for my children or not. But it is very thought provoking way of life. So radical that I wonder if executing it would harder than trying to convince others around us that it would be the right decision for our children all their lives. How is the unschooling community in Malaysia? Do you have any thoughts on this? Please, let me know.